What Genetic Counselors Do

Genetic counselors help patients identify potential risks in their family's medical history and help them understand the implications of those risks. For example, certain kinds of colorectal cancer are hereditary. If a physician sees that certain members of that patient's family have had colorectal cancer, then the physician might refer them to a genetic counselor. Genetic counselors will advise the patient on various testing procedures and will help him or her interpret and adjust to the results. While the news that genetic counselors deliver is not always pleasant, this type of testing can prepare and inform patients if they are at risk for certain hereditary diseases.

Types of Work Environments

  • Hospitals
  • Outpatient care facilities
  • Medical and diagnostic laboratories and research facilities
  • Colleges, universities, and schools 

Education and Training Requirements

Genetic counselors have earned a master's degree in genetic counseling from a program approved by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling. Once they have acquired their graduate degree, genetic counselors must take and pass a certification exam.


According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median salary for genetic counselors is approximately $98,130 per year.

Professional Organizations

The National Society of Genetic Counselors
The American Board of Genetic Counseling 

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